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By Jonny Turner More questions were raised than answered when Spankem solidified his New Zealand Cup favouritism by winning the Canterbury Classic. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained pacer used his blistering speed to beat the Robert Dunn pairing of Henry Hubert and Classy Brigade in the group 2 Canterbury Classic. Spankem enjoyed a beautiful run in the trail throughout, thanks to some canny driving early in the race from Purdon, which effectively sealed the 5yr-old’s win a long way from home. Henry Hubert showed he was in for a big spring when running a strong second in his first start this term. The 5yr-old was one of just three runners in the event that gave away a race fitness edge to their rivals. Fourth placed Ashley Locaz, who was sound in fourth, was also one of those. Clouds hang over a number of the big names being aimed at New Zealand Cup glory following Friday night’s race. All Stars pacers Chase Auckland and Ultimate Sniper both botched the start of the race and failed to flatter afterwards. After catching the field, the pair made three wides runs on to the pace with a lap to go, before Chase Auckland faded at the 500m. Ultimate Sniper then battled in to fifth placing in the home straight. A G’s White Socks showed much improved barrier manners to pace off the mark for the first time this campaign in Friday night’s race. That was as good as it got for the Greg and Nina Hope trained pacer, who battled in to sixth after making a three wide bid before the home turn. New Zealand Cup aspirant Nandolo also produced a shocker in the event. The John Howe trained outsider galloped early after a hopple shortener problem, before racing fiercely throughout. It was a case of two out of three ain’t bad for the stars in Friday night’s Canterbury Park Trotting Cup. The winner, Oscar Bonavena, and runner-up, Marcoola, produced brilliant efforts when fighting out a close finish to the group 2 feature. Oscar Bonavena’s star rose again when he staged a huge recovery to win the race after failing to step away from barrier 1. The All Stars trotter settled five lengths off the back of the field, before catching the field and producing a sweeping finish to win. Marcoola was excellent in his first start for the season, going down by just a head. The shock performance of the race came from Sundees Son, who galloped when under pressure in the straight. The Robert Dunn barn enjoyed much better fortunes in the first South Island heat of the Sires Stakes Series. Above N Beyond sprinted quickly off a strong speed to win by two lengths over Skippys Delight. Aqua Sancta held third after sitting parked throughout.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner Wins on and off the track mean New Zealand Cup favourite Spankem's perfect spring preparation is set to continue at Addington tonight. The Miracle Mile winner will start a short-priced favourite alongside three of his All Stars stablemates in the group 2 Canterbury Classic. Away from the track, Spankem's path to New Zealand Cup victory got a lot easier this week after his main rival, Tiger Tara, was withdrawn from the race. The horse's fortunes got even better when he secured a perfect barrier 3 draw in tonight's standing start. Spankem's good fortunes continued on the track when he worked well at Purdon and Rasmussen's stable this week, as he has done all spring. Purdon confirmed the 5yr-old has improved his fitness levels since his emphatic Hannon Memorial win. And in terrible news for his opponents, there is still plenty more to come. "He is still doing very, very well and is working well, but I think a couple more runs will help him." Returning 5yr-old Ashley Locaz will be given a tough introduction to open class racing when clashing with Spankem and his fellow stablemates Chase Auckland and Ultimate Sniper. Purdon is expecting the horse to measure up in the open class ranks when at full fitness. "He has got to put his hand up and prove it, but I think the way he feels in his work coming back - he feels nice and strong and he feels like he will take the step into open company. "He has come back good, he has had a couple of trials in moderate company." "Whatever he does on Friday he will improve on." Chase Auckland looks the main danger to Spankem following his excellent Hannon Memorial run. The 5yr-old, who has already made a successful transition to open class in just two starts, powered home for fourth after galloping with a lap to go. Chase Auckland was rated a $7.50 third-favourite behind Spankem ($1.35) and Ultimate Sniper ($6). Ultimate Sniper has been sound, but not spectacular, in two new season runs. The horse has looked in need of racing to return to the electric form he showed last season, which Purdon confirmed. "He was off the scene for the longest time of our runners, and being a stallion he is carrying a bit more condition." "The first two runs have done him the world of good." A G's White Socks was rated the hardest horse for the All Stars pacer to beat when he opened at $15. The 6yr-old galloped away from the standing start for the third consecutive time in last month's Hannon Memorial. Though the Greg and Nina Hope-trained pacer is clearly up to pushing the favourites, he will not be able to do so if he botches the start again tonight. In the Canterbury Classic, New Zealand Cup aspirant Henry Hubert starts for the first time this season. The Robert Dunn-trained 5yr-old has had three prep runs to be readied for his resumption. Henry Hubert ran in a soft trial and workout before looking good when winning a subsequent trial at Rangiora last week. Dunn has a two-pronged attack on the Canterbury Classic, with Classie Brigade also entered. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Clint Ford is preparing to fight youth with youth in tonight's $30,000 Canterbury Park Trotting Cup at Addington. And that means giving up the hot seat behind enigmatic trotter Marcoola. Last season's Dominion winner resumes in tonight's 2600m standing start but finds himself having been replaced as our best trotter by Sundees Son and maybe even Oscar Bonavena. Both have been sensational and near faultless in their two starts this season, with Oscar Bonavena the favourite tonight as he gets a 20m start over Marcoola and Sundees Son. That would suggest if he can lead and get his own way, he should trot the last 800m in a time that would make him incredibly hard to get past. But as good as Sundees Son is and Oscar Bonavena may be, the best version of Marcoola as just as potent, with his Dominion win last season a thing of raw power rarely seen in our best trotting races in the last decade. He was driven that day by part-owner Clint Ford, who unofficially shares the training with his family under father Ken Ford's name. But Clint says it is time to give the reins on Marcoola to his niece Sheree Tomlinson so she will drive the muscular stallion tonight. "Sheree is a good driver, better than me, so the time was right for her to take over," he says. "I haven't driven in a race for about six months and am not out there enough to do the horse justice. So I'm happy for Sheree to jump on." The swap isn't just Ford keeping it in the family as Tomlinson is a genuine talent who steered Amaretto Sun to a massive upset win in the Dominion two years ago but due to a change of employment she is not getting the quality of drives she deserves at the moment. Even with a bright young star in the sulky Marcoola is up against it tonight, giving away a big edge in race fitness to both the favourites. The make up of the field, with only four on the front line, suggests if Oscar Bonavena behaves he will lead easily and it is hard to imagine too many attackers. He did bobble away at Oamaru last start but quickly came down trotting, always a good sign for a young trotter as it shows they would rather trot than not. If Oscar Bonavena does lead then driver John Dunn's tactics on Sundees Son will be crucial. The five-year-old is explosive and our trotting top dog but as good as he is he will need to do something special to sit parked outside Oscar Bonavena and beat him. While the open class trot has plenty of moving parts, the $50,000 Canterbury Classic for the pacers might come down to one simple factor. Because if Spankem steps away well enough to lead, or even on par with the field, he should win. The newly crowned Horse of the Year has looked even stronger this season and paced a 53.3 last 800m to win untouched when he led and beat most of those he meets tonight in the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru 12 days ago. In front he is almost unbeatable and it is hard to imagine many of his rivals would try to park him tonight so unless he misses away, and his manners have been solid so far this season, he should win.   Michael Guerin

Addington in association with co-sponsor Airpark Canterbury are excited to announce all individual owners will receive an owners pass to thank and acknowledge them for their ongoing support.   The Airpark Canterbury & Addington Owners Pass will provide all registered owners a complimentary drink (one house beer, house wine or soft drink) redeemable from any public bar open on course at all NZMTC Race Meetings apart from Christchurch Casino NZ Trotting Cup Day.   This pass will also enable owners to access the IRT Stables.   “It is really important for Addington to thank our customers on an ongoing basis. Our owners are vital to our industry and it is one thing I wanted to introduce this year as a sign of Addington’s appreciation. It’s fantastic that Airpark Canterbury, one of our long term and loyal sponsors have partnered with us to thank our owners” says Chief Executive Officer, Brian Thompson.   Thompson continued to say “It is really easy to obtain an Airpark Canterbury & Addington Owners Pass. Owners just need to start a horse at a NZMTC race meeting from 4th October 2019. The passes will be available to collect at our race day administration desk on the ground floor foyer of the Metropolitan Stand. After collecting their owners pass, a complimentary drink is available to all owners, irrespective of whether their horse is racing or not.”   Graeme Harris, Managing Director of Airpark Canterbury is delighted to be co-sponsoring the owners pass.   “I thought this was a great idea of Addington’s. Being an owner myself, I saw the value straight away and wanted to support Addington with this. I also wanted to thank our owners as they are extremely supportive of me and my team by parking their cars at Airpark Canterbury.”   It is important to note the owners pass can be used at all NZMTC race meetings, including the Show Day Races, however, due to the complex nature of the Christchurch Casino NZ Trotting Cup Day, this pass is unable to be used on this day.   For full terms and conditions about the new Airpark Canterbury & Addington Owners Pass, please visit: https://www.addington.co.nz/racing/airpark-canterbury-addington-owners-pass/   Jess Smith Communication and Ownership Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

By Jonny Turner  Marcoola will take his first race day step towards defending his title Dominion title with a new face in the sulky behind him. Leading junior driver Sheree Tomlinson will steer the 7yr-old in the Canterbury Park Trotting Cup at Addington on Friday night. Marcoola’s part-owner and regular driver, Clint Ford, has stepped aside to give his niece the opportunity to drive the trotter, this week. What happens in future races leading up to the Dominion has not been decided and it could hinge on the form of the horse’s stablemate and fellow Dominion winner, Amaretto Sun. “Nothing is set in stone at the moment,” Tomlinson said. “Amaretto Sun is not racing this week, so, we will just have to see how Friday night pans out and see what Clint’s plans are and go from there.” Marcoola has made two public appearances ahead of his resumption. The Ken Ford trained trotter won a sedate workout at Ashburton, before returning to the same track, last week, to run second behind race rival, Didjabringthebeers, in a faster trial.  Both efforts have pleased the Ford camp. “Clint’s been happy enough with both of the workouts and trials,” Tomlinson said.  “They really run that last half quick at Ashburton, last week, and he did throw a shoe halfway up the straight.” “Its different on race day, fitness wise, but he looks good and he’s feeling well, too.” Marcoola faces a tough test, returning against race hardened trotting stars Oscar Bonavena and Sundees Sun. Tomlinson is hopeful her charge can go a good race, despite giving away that fitness edge. “It is a very nice field and there are some horses in there that have had a few races under their belt.” “He is quite a naturally fit horse and he has gone quite a few good races fresh.” “On his A-game he can go a very nice race.” Trotting fans get the clash they have been waiting for when Oscar Bonvena and Sundees Son go head to head for the first time in Friday night’s feature. Oscar Bonvena must step from his barrier 1 draw to take down his main rival. That would usually be a tricky task for a horse that has bounded away from his past two standing starts. But, because there are just two horses on the front line, the rising star should not have few excuses for making mistakes. And his driver Mark Purdon is confident he can step away cleanly. “He is a lot more mature this time around and I would be surprised if he botched it.” “He has probably bounded away in both starts, but he has caught the trot very quickly.” Sundees Sun, who has been brilliant in his two starts for the season, has a standing start challenge of his own in Friday night’s race. The Robert Dunn trained trotter will start away from the unruly for the first time of his career in the event. Sundees Son and Marcoola will both give Oscar Bonavena a head start from the 20m mark.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner Stevie Golding scored his first win as a trainer in sensational style when Stunin Magic bolted in by more than six lengths at Addington on Friday night. Golding’s fiancé, Samantha Ottley, let the Stunin Cullen pacer loose at the 500m and the mare ran her rivals off their feet to score an empathic victory in just her third start. Golding admitted Stunin Magic’s impressive performance came as slight surprise to him.  “It was a massive thrill.” “She went good at the trials two weeks ago, so I didn’t think she would be too far away” “But, I wasn’t expecting her to win like that.” “Hopefully she can keep it going.” Stunin Magic has allowed Golding to keep his hand in harness racing while he works full time as a real estate agent. The 4yr-old is the only horse the former premiership winning junior driver has in work. “I only do it for a hobby and she is the only one I have in work.” “It is just a good to have one at the races so I can come along and have a beer and catch up with everyone.” Though Golding has made a flying start to his training career by producing a win and two seconds from just four starts, he does not plan on expanding his team, with real estate being his main focus.   Stunin Magic produced Golding’s two second placings when producing two runner-up performances in her first two starts, late last season. The mare then underwent surgery to remove bone chips, before Golding brought her back up to race fitness. Stunin Magic is raced by her breeder Terry McDonald along with Golding’s brother, Matt, and Soph Herbert. Another milestone was notched at Addington on Friday night when trainers Jason and Amber Lethaby scored their first quinella. Amber produced a well judged front running drive to help Justamollyarcher hold out Globe Trekker and Jonny Cox. The couple’s training effort was just also well judged as the neither horse had been sighted at the races recently. Justamollyarcher was having her first start since running a creditable sixth behind Ruthless Kayla in the Uncut Gems Trotters Classic at Addington in June. Globe Trekker was also having his first start since June, when he clashed with exciting trotter Oscar Bonavena at Ashburton. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner  A sensational line up of 3yr-olds will provide a mouth-watering entre for punters at Addington on Friday night ahead of the beginning of the Sires Stakes Series. Sires Stakes eligible pacers Skippy’s Delight, Tyron's Bit Of Lemon, Somekindawonderful and Above N Beyond will battle with fellow 3yr-olds Willison and Im A Gigolo and older pacers Letterkenny Boy, Lets Hustle and Givemewhatineed in a brilliant rating 52-59 event over 1980m. Skippy’s Delight will warm up for next week’s first South Island Sires Stakes Series heat when he starts from barrier 2 in the line up of emerging stars. Though next week’s race is his main aim, trainer Brendon Hill is hopeful Skippy’s Delight can run a big race. “I'd like to think he'd be top three or go really the race.” “He has got a good draw and he has got gate speed.” “He can be up handy on the speed.” Skippy’s Delight scored back-to-back wins after running in to major traffic problems and going to the line under a hold by driver Ricky May, behind One Change at the Harness Jewels. The Art Major pacer led in both of his wins and is likely to be on the speed again, on Friday. However, Hill is hopeful the horse will get the opportunity to show off more of his skill set soon. “He's won his last two in front and Ricky and I hope he will be better in behind.” “We haven't been to do that and I don't know if we'll get a chance to do that on Friday night.” “But, let's hope is another dimension to them that we haven't used.” Skippy’s Delight has tuned up for his return to racing with two Rangiora trials. The 3yr-old was off the pace in a leader dominated heat in his first attempt. Skippy’s Delight then impressed when sweeping around the field to beat a quality line up including race rival, Above N Beyond, and group 1 performer, Flying Even Bettor. Bookmakers rated Im A Gigolo the hardest horse to beat when making 3yr-old the $2.60 favourite on market opening. The Cran Dalgety and Nathan Purdon trained pacer won his debut by more than nine lengths before scoring a comfortable length victory against a field of largely race hardened older horses in his second start. Trainer Robert Dunn has a powerful hand in the race with debutante winners Tyron's Bit Of Lemon, Somekindawonderful and former smart 2yr-old, Above N Beyond. Above N Beyond stormed home wide on the track to reel off a smart last 400m when running in to second in Skippy’s Delight’s trial win. Tyron's Bit Of Lemon and Somekindawonderful will both step up sharply in grade after clearly maidens nicely in their first starts to the races. The Mark Jones trained Willison adds more depth to Friday night’s race. The 3yr-old fought on for second behind Kiwis Are Flying in his first start for six weeks at Addington last week. All Stars pacer Letterkenny Boy heads the older brigade taking on the race’s smart 3yr-olds. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained pacer finished ahead of Skippy’s Delight at the trials before going on to win another heat, last week. The 10 race Addington card is stacked with smart 3yr-olds. Arden's Reality , Pur Dan, and Gilligans Island go head to head in race 1. On A Roll, Diamond Party and A Delightful act clash in race 3. Smart All Stars pacer Aqua Sancta will battle older horses in race 10. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner Team Bagrie will complete a perfect week if Belmont Major is able to salute at Ascot Park on Saturday. Father and son trainers Peter and Tom Bagrie had their best night at the races when they produced the winners of the first three races at Addington on Thursday. Tom started their winning run when The Governor took out race 1 and Eye Of The Tiger won race 2. Peter kept up the Bagries’ good form when producing The General to win race 3.  “It was our best night at the races by far, it all came together and the stars aligned,” Tom said. Tom helped reward his former school mate, Hoani Matenga, for his patience when Eye Of The Tiger scored her maiden victory. The Bay Of Plenty Steamers rugby player and former bassist for the band Six60 bought in to the mare when she was a yearling. And he has had to wait until she was 5yrs-old to see her in the winner’s circle. “He came down to the races one night, it must have been four years ago now, and he ended up buying a share in her after the sales,” Bagrie said. “It is his first ever horse and he has been patient and he was rapt to get the job done.” Eye Of The Tiger has been limited to just three career starts because of weakness. “She has just been a bit weak in behind,” Bagrie said. “She's always had a lot of speed.” “They always say trotters need a few miles and a bit of time.” “She was a cheapie we got from the sales and because we have got a farm it was pretty easy to leave her in a paddock for a long period of time just to let her mature.” Patience was also rewarded when The Governor won his first race since January of 2017 when he scored in amateur drivers company for Sheldon Murtha. The pacer broke a pedal bone after winning twice and placing three times in five starts as a 3yr-old. The Governor had initially raced consistently after his return, but he had not shown much enthusiasm for racing, recently. So, Bagrie started mixing his work up. “His drivers would comment and say sort of felt alright, but they asked him for something he didn't have much more,” the trainer said. “He just keep plugging on.” “We've just done a few things differently with this training and he seems to be enjoying it.” “He’s been a bit of a heat scratcher, really, because he has a lot of ability.” “We thought a lot of them until he broke down as a three year old.” More patience was rewarded when The General completed the Bagrie hat-trick at Addington. Peter waited until the half brother to Bettor Heart was a 4yr-old to step him at the races and the trainer was instantly rewarded when The General scored in a 2600m maiden event. Progressive 3yr-old Belmont Major could complete a perfect week for Team Bagrie if he can win for Tom at Ascot Park. The pacer should be very hard to beat if he is able to step away in his first standing start attempt in the rating 40-55 event. “The stand is a bit of a question mark, I suppose, but he has been good at the trials and he seems good at home,” Tom said.     “I am expecting him to go pretty good.”

By Jonny Turner Trainers Cran Dalgety and Nathan Purdon hope to continue the brilliant start they have made to the new season at Addington on Thursday night. Their new training partnership has gotten off to a flying start in its first six weeks by producing 11 winners from just 30 starters. And they hope to keep that up that good form. “As you know you have to keep it going, we don’t want to be a flash in the pan,” Dalgety said. “So, we will try to keep the momentum going.” Four of Dalgety and Purdon’s 11 victories, so far this term, have come from Arden Roanoke. Dalgety said the trainers are reaping the rewards after the former high priced yearling finally grew in to his frame. “When you pay a lot of money for them you want to get to the races as quick as you can.” “But, he simply wasn’t ready and he was quite immature for a few seasons.” Arden Roanoke beat Hayden’s Meddle, Smarter VC and Pay Me Visa when getting up late to nail Kruizr on the line in a similar event at Addington, last week. The five pacers will square off again on Thursday night. Arden Roanoke could be an even harder horse to beat when he returns to the track, this week, Dalgety said. “He has really improved since his last run.” Almost all of the eight runners in 1980m event look to have legitimate winning hopes. Smart 3yr-olds Global Domination and Dadndave return to make their 4yr-olds in the race. Storm Prince drops massively in class after starting in Classie Brigade’s Maurice Holmes Vase. The Dalgety and Purdon stable are looking forward to Bettathanfast resuming from a short winter spell on Thursday night. Dalgety said the 4yr-old should also return to Addington better than before. “We do like him – he has really improved.” “He was big and ugly, he was a bit like a big thoroughbred, he just lacked a bit of middle in him, last campaign.” Bettathanfast showed he was looking good when he held out Koenigsegg, who looks also looks a strong winning chance on Thursday night, to win a trial at Rangiora, last week. “I think he will be a really good under grade free-for-all horse and country cups horse and I reckon he will perform really good [on Thursday] night,” Dalgety said. Maiden 3yr-old Invaluable looks another strong chance for the Dalgety-Purdon stable at Addington. He went down fighting to Tyron's Bit Of Lemon after working hard in his last start at Winton. “I would like to think he wouldn’t be a maiden for too much longer,” Dalgety said. Woman In Gold will also attempt to break her maiden at Addington. The 3yr-old faded in to fourth after doing plenty of work in her last start at Winton. “She did work hard early, she worked for about the first 700m.” “I thought it wasn’t a bad run, because she did fight hard up the straight.” Pocket Watch steps sharply up in grade after clearing maiden ranks at Forbury in his last start. Dalgety is hopeful the 3yr-old’s good manners can help put him in a striking position. “He has got to jump up three classes, rather than one.” “But his forte is he is very quick from a stand and I am excited to draw the front line with him.” “So, he will put himself in a good position for the first part of the race.” Dalgety and Purdon will have one other starter this week with Donegal Mary Francis heading to Invercargill on Saturday. The 5yr-old looks a strong winning chance for new stable employee, junior driver Sarah O’Reilly.  Reprinted with permission of Harness Racing New Zealand

By Jonny Turner Chase Auckland announced himself as a New Zealand Cup contender when sprinting to victory in the New Brighton Cup at Addington on Friday night.   The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained 5yr-old put a frustrating past season behind him when scoring a front running victory in the group 3 feature. After being dogged by a muscle injury and a run of frustrating luck on the track last term, Chase Auckland could not have started his new season in more contrasting fashion. The Auckland Reactor gelding began brilliantly in his first standing start attempt, before taking the lead early for driver Tim Williams. Williams set a sedate tempo, that effectively won Chase Auckland the race with a lap to run. The 5yr-old gave his rivals little chance of making ground when sprinting his last 800m in 54.4sec and final 400m in 26.2sec to win. Spankem ran even faster sectional times when coming three wide on the home bend to run second.  The 5yr-old’s effort was good enough to see him maintain New Zealand Cup favouritism at $4.20 odds. Ultimate Sniper and A G’s Whitesocks trailed the quinella makers home. Hail Christian disappointed when running fifth. Classie Brigade took no part in the race when galloping badly at the start. Chase Auckland The road to the Dominion heated up when Sundees Son and Oscar Bonavena trotted to sizzling wins at Addington on Friday night. Sundees Son scorched away from his rivals when winning the group 3 Ordeal Trotting Cup by almost five lengths. The win was the Robert Dunn trained 5yr-old’s fifth consecutive victory and confirmed his Dominion favouritism. Driver John Dunn settled Sundees Son off a strong speed set up by Habibi Inta. Once Dunn asked his charge for a three wide bid at the 700m, the trotter charged around the field to score comprehensively. Destiny Jones ran home well out of the pack to grab second ahead of Habibi Inta, who held third. Sundees Son Earlier, Oscar Bonavena started his Dominion campaign in brilliant style when rattling off sizzling final sectionals to win. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained 4yr-old ran his last 800m in 56.4sec and final 400m in 27.5sec to win in intermediate company. The Purdon-Rasmussen stable forwent a tilt at the rich Australasian Breeders Crown with the trotter and that looks to have paid off with the way the horse returned from a short winter spell on Friday night. Oscar Bonavena Oscar Bonavena moved in to a $2.70 win price for the Dominion, following last night’s racing. Sundees Sun heads the market at $2.30.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Hail Christian’s arrogance may force a change of tactics that could greatly impact the first serious open class pace of the season at Addington tonight. Some of the big boys of the elite pacing scene return, headlined by Miracle Mile and Horse of the Year in waiting Spankem, who is joined by stablemates Chase Auckland and Ultimate Sniper. They will meet a trio of proper horses who clashed two weeks ago in Classie Brigade, A G’s White Socks and Hail Christian in tonight’s $30,000 Avon City Ford Cup, a 2600m standing start. With their fitness edge the latter trios best chances of beating the Purdon-Rasmussen favourites would seem to be to stay in front of them, with the small field suggesting half the race being run in single file and a quick last 800m. Under those circumstances almost any horse is beatable if trapped back in the field and while Spankem might be the best pacer in the country, especially with stablemate Turn It Up sidelined, he has been at his most potent when able to lead.  So surely Hail Christian, who stepped and led last time before being run down late, would want to stay in front of the returning stars? Well, maybe not. “To be honest I was a little disappointed when he led and was run down two weeks ago,” says trainer Paul Court. “I actually think he waited for the other horses and maybe he just isn’t as good in front. “He is quite an arrogant horse and knows he is good so when he gets a break on them he can pull up and wait. “So while nothing is definite, I think he is better with a trail.” But Court realises if he and fellow trainers keep handing up to the All Stars big names they will hardly ever beat them so he would like to see one of his last-start rivals in Classie Brigade or A G’s White Socks take the fight to them. “Somebody has to do it or they will just beat us all the time but I honestly don’t think it is the best way for my horse to be driven.” If Classie Brigade or A G’s White Socks are able to lead and run a fast last 800m then Spankem is beatable. But with potentially one less rival for the lead, the Miracle Mile winner deserves favouritism tonight. Tactics may be less important in the $30,000 Ordeal Trot because Sundees Son has been magnificent in his last four starts, three last season and his fresh-up win at Addington off a 25 handicap last Friday. He returns to a mobile tonight so is back on level marks and if his manners hold, and they have been fine at both the races and trials for quite some time now, he should win. Further north, Alexandra Park hosts another of its all-mile meetings, which have provided a great boost to usual Friday night turnovers because of the competitive racing and lack of red hot favourites. The feature brings together three last-start winners in The Moonshadow, Blazen River and Solid Gold and punters might lean toward The Moonshadow over stablemate Blazen River because trainer Tony Herlihy will drive him. “But to be honest there isn’t much between them and Tony (Cameron) has driven Blazen River to win before so he might even be our better hope,” explained Herlihy. But Solid Gold is a natural speedster so even drawn outside the other pair may be the one to beat.   Michael Guerin

Paul Nairn has been left under no illusion how tough the new open class trotting season is going to be. And it isn’t about to get any easier at Addington tomorrow night. Nairn was more than happy with Habibi Inta’s solid third to a rampant Sundees Son at Addington last Friday night, especially as he went into the race without a trial. “He had done plenty of work leading into it so he was ready but it is a tough old grade for these horses,” says Nairn. “So I was happy with how he went but it is going to be a hard grade the open trotters this season. “You have a lot of those good older horses like Marcoola and the others but also Sundees Son and Majestic Man and the younger ones of Mark’s (Oscar Bonavena and eventually Enhance Your Calm). “So it could be a really good open class crop.” Habibi Inta’s chances of turning the tables on Sundees Son tomorrow night have been done no favours by him drawing the inside of the second line in the mobile start Ordeal Cup, which Nairn admits has at least one positive. “I was happy with how he hit the line last week and again this week he shouldn’t get a hard run so at least he will have not too taxing start to the season. “But there are only 10 starters in it on Friday night so he should be a run at some stage.” Safely through the Ordeal Cup, Habibi Inta will head to the Banks Peninsula Cup on the grass on September 29 and head along the Dominion path but Nairn wants to see the former Harness Jewels winner develop a harder edge this season. “I think he can be a really good horse but he has to keep finding the line all the time. “He has the ability but sometimes he hasn’t found the line so I hope he starts to do that more regularly. Hopefully that experience in open class last season will help.”
  While Habibi Inta is up and running for the open class season he won’t be joined any time soon by Nairn’s other open class regular in Ronald J, who has been having soundness issues and been sent for a spell. “He just wasn’t trotting right so I will put him aside and I don’t think we will see him this side of the Cup carnival.”  Also enjoying a long spell are last season’s NZ Trotting Derby winner Lotamuscle and Jewels placegetter Gil Favor. “They are both having five months off, to give them the chance to strengthen up before they come back because there isn’t a lot for them as early four-year-olds any way.” Nairn says an end of season veterinary examination revealed Lotamuscle had been suffering from ulcers. “That might explain why he was a bit up and down during the season but we don’t know how long he had them.”   by Michael Guerin

The often sedate nature of early season open class pacing races has provided Addington with an unexpected boost this week. Because Miracle Mile winner Spankem and his high-class stablemates Ultimate Sniper and Chase Auckland will resume at their Friday night meeting, a week earlier than expected. All three Purdon-Rasmussen group one stars were originally expected to start their New Zealand Cup campaigns in the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru on Sunday week. But Purdon decided with the first open class pace of the season two weeks ago run at a farcical speed, an earlier start to their preparations wouldn’t hurt the trio. “We could have taken them back to the trials but often these early season open class races can be a bit slower than usual and raced in single file,” explains Purdon. ‘“I am not saying that will be the case this week but I think a race will be more useful than a trial which might have only been our three anyway. “And if they only run a big half (last 800m) on Friday then it is similar to a trial.” A look at the first open class pace of the season, the Maurice Holmes Vase on August 30, suggests Friday’s comeback shouldn’t be too brutal on the big guns. While there were only two head margins between Classie Brigade, A G’s White Socks and Hail Christian that night, the overall time of 3:21.4 for the 2600m standing start was 12.7 seconds outside the national record, with the leaders flying their last 800m in 54.3 seconds and the 400m in 26.7. The final sectional is exactly the same one Spankem paced winning a trial at Ashburton last week, suggesting field position might decide Friday’s Avon City Ford New Brighton Cup. But regardless of who wins on Friday having some of the All Stars pacing heroes back creates a lot more interest in the meeting and makes it feel like the open class season is actually starting. “It will be good to have them back and all going well they will probably still go to Oamaru for the Hannon, then races like the Canterbury Classic (October 4) and the Flying Stakes at Ashburton on October 28.” New Zealand Cup defending champion Thefixer won’t be back on Friday though as he has had a very slight setback and will instead trial at Rangiora today. And Auckland Cup winner Turn It Up is still definitely not racing until next year. Also returning on Friday night but away from the elite trotters is Oscar Bonavena, who is expected to be one of the big movers in that gait this season. He has thrilled Purdon in both his work and a trial last week and while he is the $4.80 second favourite for the Dominion during Cup week in Christchurch he comes back off only a 20m handicap in a moderate rating56 race on Friday. “He is trotting beautifully and we have no concerns about him stepping into open class later in the spring,” said Purdon. Friday’s main trot will see Sundees Son start a hot favourite back to mobile conditions in the Ordeal Trotting Cup after he bolted in from a 25m handicap against similar opposition last Friday.   Michael Guerin

By Jonny Turner  Sundees Son’s sensational return to racing provided owner Colin Hair with the second of two harness racing highlights in less than a week. The Robert Dunn trained trotter signalled he was set for a big spring campaign when he unleashed a powerful finish to win his first start of the new season. Though Hair does not want to get ahead of himself, the breeder-owner admitted its hard not to get excited about what could be in store for Sundees Son. “You don’t want to get ahead you yourself, but it is a bit scary to think about what is coming up.” A strong early pace set up by The Dominator had Sundees Son well back in a strung out field. After tacking on to the field from his 25m handicap, the 5yr-old still had a big task ahead of him with lap to run, when third last. Driver John Dunn found a three-wide cart in to the race before the turn for Sundees Son and the trotter let down with a brilliant finish to reel in the game pacemaker, The Dominator, by three-quarters of a length at the line. Sundees Sun looks set to return an even better prospect that he was when he ended his sensational 4yr-old with a hat-trick of group 1 wins. Hair said his horse had thrived during his short winter break. “He did do well when he was out, he has never been an overly big horse, but he has come back looking a bit bigger and a bit stronger.” Hair was to have a two-pronged attack on Friday night’s 2600m feature. Woodstone, who trialled well behind Sundees Son recently, had to be scratched from the race. The trotter is expected to be back at the races next week, Hair said. It was a case of two out of three ain’t bad for the Canterbury owner, this week. Woodstone’s scratching was one negative beside two positives - Sundees Son’s win and Hair’s re-election to the Harness Racing New Zealand board. Hair received the most votes of any of the nine people who stood in the recent election, which came as a pleasant surprise. “I was quite surprised – I didn’t realise I would get so much support because I am not affiliated to a particular club.” Friday night’s race provided contrasting fortunes for its Dominion bound trotters. Habibi Inta hit the line strongly after only finding clear running on the passing lane in the last 50m of the event. Destiny Jones and Monkeys Way went sound races, finishing fourth and sixth, respectively. Madeline Stowe, who is not nominated for the Dominion went a bold race to run fifth in her toughest career test. Comeback trotters Monbet and Enghien were not able to show their best on a wet Addington track. Monbet lost touch with the leaders before the turn and battled in to ninth placing. Driver Ricky May reported to stewards the horse felt lethargic throughout the race and it could have been due to the wet state of the track. A post-race veterinary examination showed Monbet had recovered poorly and had an elevated heart rate. Enghien broke briefly on two occasions in the running, before tiring at the finish to run seventh.   Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner Junior driver Ben Hope will have notched a career highlight before the tapes fly for a star-studded line up of trotters at Addington on Friday night.  Hope will drive Enghien, who clashes with his stablemate Monbet and Rowe Cup winner, Sundees Son, in a blockbuster 2600m handicap. The rookie reinsman admitted just being entrusted with the drive on the 6yr-old, who is trained by his parents, Greg and Nina Hope, is a massive thrill. Enghien will be having his first start in more than 15 months when Hope lines him up from the 15m mark.  The former Harness Jewels winner did not look like a horse that had had a long stretch away from the track when winning his first public appearance since his battle with a minor leg injury, last month. Enghien could not back up that performance in a subsequent workout on the same track a week later, but there were genuine excuses for his fourth placing.  “The first trial everything went to plan, he trotted super and he did everything we asked of him,” Hope said.  “The second workout didn’t really go to plan – earlier in the race he lost a shoe.  “We have changed a couple of little things from his trials and he has been great.” Trotting fans will remember Enghien as much for his less than perfect gait as they will for his eight listed and group race wins. Hope said though the horse’s well known action has improved as he has matured, it will never be perfect.  “His gait probably has improved a bit.” “He is the sort of horse – being a typical Love You – that he is a nice rolling type that likes to get in to his groove a bit.” “I think he is always going to be little bit funny and his gait.” Monbet will combine with driver Ricky May for just his second start in nearly three years on Friday night. The 23-race winner has had three trial and workout runs at Rangiora to prepare him for his latest comeback bid. Monbet beat lower grade trotters in the first of those, before effectively following Enghien around in his trial win. In his latest public appearance, Monbet beat pacers to win the same workout in which Enghien suffered his shoe problem. “We were really happy with his trial and Ricky jumped off and was ecstatic to get the feel of him again,” Hope said.  Few would expect Monbet to be at his best on Friday night after spending much of the past three years on the sideline. The champion trotter is simply as fit as he can be without the having the benefit of recent racing.  “He is probably going to need the run, Enghien is probably a little bit more forward than him at the moment, but after a couple of runs it could be a different story,” Hope said.  “He is the sort of horse that I think with the more races and hit outs he gets, the more he will improve.” The Hope trained pairing of Enghien and Monbet face the daunting task of facing the New Zealand’s newly crowned trotting king Sundees Son. The Robert Dunn trained 5yr-old has had one trial leading in to his resumption and produced an impressive effort.  Sundees Son beat his stablemate Woodstone, who is scratched from Friday night’s race, as well as race rivals Harriet Of Mot, Monkey’s Way and Destiny Jones in a 2600m free-for-all event at Rangiora. Sundees Son, who clearly looks the horse to beat in Friday night’s event, will start from the 25m mark alongside Monbet and Harriet of Mot. Enghien, Monkey’s Way and Habibi Inta start from 15m.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Peter Craig This year’s inductees were announced at Addington Raceway on Friday 30 August 2019 as part of the seventeenth Canterbury Owners and Breeders Night. Two time winners of the NZ Trotting Cup in Monkey King and Dominion Handicap in Scotch Tar together with Canterbury harness racing identity Fred Fletcher are the latest to be honoured by the Addington Harness Hall of Fame. Monkey King – triple millionaire, thirteenth winner of two NZ Cups, winning thirty five races in NZ, nineteen at Addington, four in Australia. Winner of twenty group races including ten at Group One level (GN Derby, Messenger, NZ Cup/NZFFA/Easter Cup twice, Auckland Cup and Miracle Mile). Leading pacing/overall stake earner for 2009/10 season ($1,022,944), only horse to win consecutive NZ Cups/NZFFA’s, Pacer of Year, NZ Harness Horse of Year, Australasian Grand Circuit champion. Driven in majority of career by Addington Harness Hall of Famer Ricky May (24 wins) including when he established an Australian Pacers mile/Australasian Pacers race mile record of 1:50.8 at Menangle (Miracle Mile 2009). Trained by Stephen Reid (20 wins), Stephen Reid and Graeme Rogerson (2 wins) and Brendon Hill (17 wins).  A NZ Trotting Hall of Fame inductee. Scotch Tar – fifth trotter to win two Dominion Hcps, winner of twenty nine races, eighteen of these at Addington (T2:04.4, T1:58.9TT, $142,405). He was leading trotting stake earner for consecutive seasons : 1979/80 ($35,715), 1980/81 ($50,040). Scotch Tar won eight group races, two at Group One being his Dominion Hcp victories. He was aged trotting entire or gelding of year twice, Trotter of Year, time trialled in T1:58.9 at Addington, owned/trained by Slim Dykman (driver for 15 wins; Robert Cameron 10 wins and Peter Wolfenden 4 wins)) and a NZ Trotting Hall Of Fame inductee. Fred Fletcher is a Canterbury harness racing identity although he was born on the West Coast. A breeder and owner, he was prominent for nearly four decades as stud manager with responsibility for the running of Roydon Lodge where his stallion charges included Thurber Frost, Scottish Hanover Armbro Hurricane, Smooth Fella, Game Pride and Sundon. As a trainer/driver Fletcher drove 169 winners commencing with Roydon Scott in 1977 and concluding with Major Decision in 2002. His training record sits just under 500 successes (490) with 229 having been with trotters. Fred Fletcher has eight Group One wins on his training record, specifically Roydon Glen (4), Sundon and three Ruby Jewels with Jinja Gal, Royal Aspirations and Sunny Ruby (fastest trotting female in Australasia with t3, T1:54.7 at time record set). His rich assortment of both pacers and trotters have won numerous age group awards and a Trotter Of Year (Sundon) and Pacer/Harness Horse Of Year winner in Roydon Glen. These are just a few of many notable achievements in the careers of the latest inductees to Addington’s Harness Hall Of Fame.   Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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